OAKLAND — With perspiration glistening on his forehead, Ron Owens is pacing in front of a class full of recently paroled men and women, describing how he adopted the “hip, slick and cool” persona when he was 13.
The accompanying lifestyle, which he said involved squeezing “the maximum amount of profit with the least amount of effort,” led to drug abuse, crime and ultimately time behind bars.
Now Owens works as a community liaison with the Oakland Mayor's Office and is a motivational speaker in the Parole and Corrections (PACT) program, which offers parolees “everything they need” to successfully reenter society.
He is featured in a one-hour documentary chronicling the PACT program, a film that includes scenes of Owens at work in front of a class.
In 1999, Oakland, home to 2,600 parolees, and the California Department of Corrections entered into a partnership designed to facilitate the reintegration of parolees back into the community. The result of this joint effort was the PACT program.
“Home and Almost Free: The Changing Face of Parole,” showcases the program, which offers parolees a range of services, including job training, education, and treatment for substance abuse.
“Just because you are on parole, you are not free,” Owens reminds his audience in one classroom scene. “Parole is just a lower level of custody.”
Ashley James, director of the documentary, said the video captures a model program in action.
“PACT creates options beyond the $200, handshake and pat on the back that parolees heretofore received upon release from incarceration,” he said.
In the final scene of the documentary, Dwayne Cooks, also a speaker in the PACT program, implores the parolees to take advantage of the services available to them.
“Stay home y'all, stay home,” he says.
The documentary will be shown at a free screening at the Grand Lake Theater on today at 5 p.m. A question-and-answer session will follow.